Home > Papers from 2012 > Decision making in honeybees

Decision making in honeybees

Over a long, productive and ongoing career, Shaowu Zhang has been involved in many ingenious and thought provoking experiments with honeybees. This work has put him firmly at the centre of the “Cognitive mini-brain” movement, which has been central to educating the wider world about the mental capacities of humble bees. This new review in Frontiers in Neuroscience covers many of these provocative experiments.

ABSTRACT “Honeybees can easily be trained to perform different types of discrimination tasks under controlled laboratory conditions. This review describes a range of experiments carried out with free-flying forager honeybees under such conditions. The research done over the past thirty or so years suggests that cognitive abilities (learning and perception) in insects are more intricate and flexible than was originally imagined. It has become apparent that honeybees are capable of a variety of visually guided tasks, involving decision making that operates at a surprisingly high level. Decision making in honeybees is always flexible. The trained animals learn how to solve a task, and do so with a high accuracy, but when they are presented with a new variation of the task, they apply the learnt rules from the earlier setup to the new situation, and solve the new task as well. Honeybees therefore not only feature a rich behavioural repertoire to choose from, but also make decisions most apt to the current situation. The experiments in this review give an insight into the environmental cues and cognitive resources that are probably highly significant for a forager bee that must continually make decisions regarding patches of resources to be exploited.”

Shaowu Zhang, Aung Si and Mario Pahl (2012) Decision making in honeybees. Frontiers in Neuroscience. 6. doi 10.3389/fnins.2012.00088

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